by Michael H. Brownstein

The ghost in the forest hypothesis states that if you remove an organism from an ecosystem, it will affect other organisms that relied on that organism for their survival. The area where this organism once inhabited will act as a dead zone. The diversity in species will be greatly reduced.
–Dr. Rose-Marie Muzikastates

I woke two o’clock in the afternoon
an 81 degree day,
the sky sullen blue with Hiroshima clouds in the distance

and a ghost in the oil,
the water blood red.
Did you really believe God is at the end of the world?

Brown pelican, fresh water dolphin, manatee, blue finned tuna,
shrimp, oyster, alligator, clam.
I saw a man ray,
the stench of the seven indecencies spread across the beach in
eagle spans, herpes clusters, the bitter taste of arsenic

and the bone littered sand full of crabs,
a sudden lack of salt,
the sunset of the Keys dripping body organs, vomit, green mucous

Is this not enough? The great deforestation,
raw sewage and drinking water,
how fingernails blacken at the fall.

The man ray was enormous,
grand shadow black fins that stretched and stretched like a yawn,
and then I saw its small head, tiny eyes, huge teeth.

Close to shore where the greedy own the water,
near the boats and the no trespasser signs,
a second man ray joined the first

and the family of swimmers
laughing, tossing a beach ball, perfect blond hair and nothing
one moment and the next, no longer there.

One of the man rays winked–I swear it did–
bragged with a Dante sound and bloodied fangs
and then it too was gone.

What is it you cannot hear?

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